CD review: Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires

First published in the Guardian on 9 November, 2017

Piazzolla: María de Buenos Aires
Mr McFall’s Chamber (Delphian)

Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera is fierce and hot-blooded thing, with its swirling text by Horacio Ferrer and deft mashup of fugue, milonga, cabaret, even 1960s psychedelia. The drama inhabits bars and brothers where characters are ultra vivid but mysterious and a bit supernatural — if Maria represents the city, the bandoneon (superbly poised playing from Victor Villena) brings out her most seductive and destructive sides. Edinburgh ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber has been championing Piazzolla for 20 years and their take is considered and dignified if low on danger or breathless passion. I blame the percussion, far too well behaved. But the sultry exchanges between violin and bandoneon are irresistible, and the voices: smoky narration from Juanjo Lopez Vidal, Valentina Montoya Martinez unflinching as Maria, and huge-hearted chansons from Nicholas Mulroy. If you know him as Bach’s Evangelist, just wait to you hear his way with a slow milonga. Devastating.